Young Americans seem to be losing faith in freedom. Why?
According to the World Values Survey, only about 30 percent of Americans born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, compared with 72 percent of Americans born before World War II. In 1995, 16 percent of Americans in their late teens and early adulthood thought democracy was a bad idea; in 2011, the number increased to 24 percent.
Young Americans also are disproportionately skeptical of free speech. A 2015 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) believe the government should be able to regulate certain types of offensive speech. Only 27 percent of Gen-Xers (ages 35 to 50), 20 percent of baby boomers (ages 51 to 69) and 12 percent of the silent generation (ages 70 to 87) share that opinion.
For many conservative commentators, especially those concerned with attitudes on college campuses, this is merely more evidence of the deleterious influence of the radical left in academia. But while ideology certainly plays a role here, these trends transcend political party affiliation, as a number of recent polls indicate.
A 2016 Gallup survey found that a majority of both Democratic and Republican students believe colleges should be allowed to restrict speech that is purposely offensive to certain groups. A survey of students’ attitudesconcerning free speech released on Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 66 percent of Democratic and 47 percent of Republican students believe there are times a college should withdraw a campus speaker’s invitation after it has been announced. And a survey published by the Brookings Institution in September found that 20 percent of Democratic and 22 percent of Republican students agreed it was acceptable for student groups to use violence to prevent a person from speaking.